I never wanted a house full of all-singing, all-dancing baby gizmos, instead wanting to promote imaginative and exploratory play with simpler objects that aren't limited to one function. Before you laugh, point, and shout "Ha! First time mum alert!", I am in no way suggesting that Baby won't have piles of plastic toys that play music and flash lights (one Christmas in and she's already got more than she can play with, and loves them all) but in my mind, it's all about striking a balance.
When Baby was about 3 months old and becoming a lot more interested in the world around her, I started reading about heuristic play and the concept of treasure baskets. Heuristic play is a term coined by Elinor Goldschmied to describe the way in which babies and children can independently select the objects they want to play with in order to make their own discoveries.
This book was especially useful (and oh my, how great did it make me feel wandering around the academic section of the library: "I've got a small baby and I'm getting my brain back! Wahey!") and great for reading small chunks at a time. The Imagination Tree also has lots of useful information, photos and examples.
The basic idea behind treasure baskets is something that parents all over the world have been doing since the dawn of time: giving household items to the baby to play with. (No doubt cave-babies were given pebbles to bang together, and sticks to wave around!) By putting the items together in a basket, it allows babies who are sitting, but not yet on the move, to investigate different textures independently. The independence of the baby is key - they are the ones making the choice of what to take out of the basket and how to play with it. The adult is there as support - faciliating the play, ensuring the safety of the baby and interacting when invited by the baby.
We currently have the following in our treasure basket:
The treasure basket can keep Baby occupied for a looong time - she'll spend ages waving the wooden spoon, chewing on the whisk handle, hitting the wooden hoops together or trying to look through the hole in the CD. It's so interesting watching to see what she picks out first. At the moment she's a bit of a magpie: she's all about the shiny shiny shiny!
Have you used a treasure basket or similar with your children? If you have one, or have a go putting one together, I'd love to see pictures! Any questions, please ask away!
(This turned into a bit of an essay - thank you for getting to the end!)